Macron, Merkel seek common approaches to Trump, euro

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel speak to reporters ahead of their meeting in Berlin, Germany, November 18, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 18 November 2018
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Macron, Merkel seek common approaches to Trump, euro

  • Macron urged European government to seize more responsibility for their own fate, especially regarding defense

FRANKFURT: French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel consulted Sunday on migration, fixing the euro currency, Europe’s defense, taxing digital companies and other issues as the two leaders looked to preserve their influence abroad while their authority flags at home.
Macron, who came to Berlin to take part in Germany’s national remembrance day for the victims of war and dictatorship, urged European government to seize more responsibility for their own fate, especially regarding defense.
Macron said that the French-German alliance “is invested with this obligation not to allow the world to slide into chaos, and to accompany it on the road of peace.”
He said that Europe can’t play its role “if it doesn’t take more responsibility for its defense and security and is content to play a secondary role on the international scene.”
The two biggest countries in Europe can be a powerful force, but their leaders at the moment are hampered by falling domestic support. Macron has seen his poll ratings sag at home, where more than a quarter-million people protested Saturday over proposed gas tax hikes. Merkel has been a lame duck since saying she wouldn’t seek another term.
Merkel has offered support for Macron’s proposal for a European army. Both leaders have said Europe needs to depend less on others — such as the US — for its defense.
US President Donald Trump has unsettled NATO allies by demanding member countries either pay more for defense or “protect themselves,” as he put it in a recent tweet.
However, ceremonial appearances and warm words offered ahead of a December summit on the euro can’t hide the persistent friction between the French and German approaches to the European Union’s economic issues.
Germany and France have apparently struck a deal on a common budget for the EU countries that use the shared euro currency, something Macron pushed for. German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told the dpa news agency the proposal was to be presented to European finance ministers Monday.
The size of the budget — mentioned by French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire as 20 to 25 billion euros — is far short of Macron’s idea. The amount is only 0.2 percent of the eurozone economy, less than the several percentage points of gross domestic product originally mentioned by Macron.
The compromise underscores German reluctance to sign off on anything seen as transferring taxpayer money from richer countries like Germany to more fiscally shaky ones such as Italy or Greece.
The European summit in December is to take up limited proposals to strengthen the euro currency, such as upgrading the eurozone’s bailout fund and a long-term road map for introducing EU-level deposit insurance.
The two sides can’t agree on a tax on digital companies such as Amazon and Google. The French and the European Commission have proposed imposing such a tax, but Scholz said the issue should be left with the 36-member Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
A European army would be a long-term prospect. Macron was advocating that Europe do more for its own defense, putting him on the same page in many ways with Trump.


Trump signs ‘Space Force’ directive

The creation of Space Force is by no means a done deal, as it must be vetted and approved by Congress. (AP)
Updated 10 min 38 sec ago
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Trump signs ‘Space Force’ directive

  • The forces is to protect satellites
  • The order calls for Congress to draft legislation that would establish it

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump signed an order Tuesday outlining his vision for a new “Space Force” that could one day become a separate military branch on an equal footing to the Army and Navy.
Trump wants to create a space force to protect satellites, tackle vulnerabilities in space and assert US dominance in orbit.
“We have to be prepared,” Trump told reporters after signing the directive.
“My administration has made the creation of a space force a national security issue.”
Space Force would be the sixth branch of the military alongside the Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force and Coast Guard.
The order calls for Congress to draft legislation that would establish Space Force as a branch that falls under the Air Force, similar to how the Navy oversees the Marine Corps.
Defense Department spokesman Charlie Summers said the Pentagon would submit its legislative proposal within the coming weeks.
With the new directive, “Trump is posturing the United States to compete, deter, and win in a complex multi-domain environment characterized by great power competition,” Summers said in a statement.
The Air Force said a space force would work “to ensure unfettered access to, and freedom to operate in space, and to provide vital capabilities to joint and coalition forces.”
But the creation of Space Force is by no means a done deal, as it must be vetted and approved by Congress.
Lawmakers and defense officials have reacted with skepticism, wary of the cost and added bureaucracy.
Space plays a vital role in just about every aspect of modern warfare, with many military technologies reliant on a network of orbiting sensors and satellites, and the Pentagon has warned that countries such as Russia and China are working to build anti-satellite capabilities.